Time is running out for the Los Angeles Lakers to make the Play-In Tournament as the losses continue to pile up.
In the Lakers’ last game, they hosted the New Orleans Pelicans, one of the teams ahead of them in the standings. L.A. welcomed both LeBron James and Anthony Davis back to the lineup hoping that would lead to a win, but unfortunately, they still came up short.
Now, the Lakers only have five regular-season games remaining and sit one game behind the San Antonio Spurs for the final Play-In spot. The Spurs own the tiebreak though, so it really is a two-game deficit for the Lakers.
If the Lakers want to have any hope of catching the Spurs then they will have to win on Sunday afternoon when they host Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.
This will be no easy task for the Lakers given the high level of play Jokic has continued to play at. The reigning MVP is having an even better season than last year, averaging 26.6 points, 13.6 rebounds and 8.0 assists, doing everything for the Nuggets on a nightly basis.
It will take a group effort to defend Jokic, who is one of the best passing big men ever. But the Lakers will be relying on all of Dwight Howard, Wenyen Gabriel and Davis to slow him down, forcing other Nuggets players to beat them.
The good news for the Lakers is that for most of the Pelicans game, both Davis and James looked like their usual great selves.
Davis, who was playing in his first game in six weeks, finished 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in 37 minutes. He said his foot was feeling a little sore towards the end of the game, but the fact that he was able to play 37 minutes and not re-injure the foot is a good sign.
Meanwhile, James had 38 points, eight rebounds and four assists as he continued his outstanding season. While the Lakers haven’t had much success this season, that doesn’t take away from what James has done as he leads the league in scoring at 30.3 points per game.
Unfortunately though, just before tipoff, James was ruled out of the game against the Nuggets as his ankle continues to give him problems.
That’s a massive loss for the Lakers, putting more pressure on Davis to pick up the load in absence of his co-star.
Who will be playing alongside Davis remains to be seen as Frank Vogel made the controversial decision to bench both Talen Horton-Tucker and Austin Reaves for the Pelicans game in favor of other veteran guards like Avery Bradley and D.J. Augustin.
Vogel explained that was due to matchups though, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see both of the Lakers’ young guards back in the rotation against the Nuggets, who are stronger in the frontcourt than the backcourt.
Lakers (31-46) vs. Nuggets (46-32)
12:30 p.m. PT, April 3, 2022
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Malik Monk
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Austin Reaves, Stanley Johnson, Talen Horton-Tucker, Wayne Ellington, D.J. Augustin
Projected Nuggets Starting Lineup:
PG: Monte Morris
SG: Will Barton
SF: Aaron Gordon
PF: Jeff Green
C: Nikola Jokic
Key Reserves: Jamychal Green, Bones Hyland, Austin Rivers, DeMarcus Cousins, Davon Reed
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